Industry Gossip – How to Deal with “Meanies”

Let’s talk about gossip.

UGH. I’m kinda bummed about having this conversation with you. No one likes gossip… and yet it happens in most markets in our industry. So, let’s just get it out there. Gossip sucks.

GossipSo – what do we do when you are the object of other people’s gossip? (Or – you think you are. You’re not quite sure… but it seems like people say bad things about you.) Maybe it’s because you’re new. Maybe it’s because you’re really good at what you do and people are envious. Maybe it’s because you do things different. Whatever the reason, it sure does SUCK to be at the other end of gossip.

I have 3 pieces of advice if you find yourself in this situation. (By the way, it’s the SAME advice I give my 7 year old when dealing with playground negotiations… the little girl that I want to be a strong confident person in this world faces the same challenges you face.)

Life is hard. But, we’ve got to plow through, instead of being victims of circumstances.

3 Pieces of Advice for Dealing with “Meanies”:

1.) Not everyone will like you.

OK – let’s be honest… do you like everyone you meet? I don’t. I’m just being honest here. I’m not a mean person. But, I don’t love everyone. I’m nice and respectful to EVERYONE. But not everyone is my friend. And, that’s a good thing. Friends are special to me.

If you look into your heart… you probably don’t like every single person you meet.

So – why do you expect everyone to like you? I know that’s a weird thing to say. We ALL want to be liked. BUT – really – why? It’s OK to not be liked. What matters is that the people that we like, like us back. More important: it’s important that the people we lovelove us back. Those people are usually outside of our work bubble. They are our family and friends.

So – who cares? A few people don’t like you. You’re spending too much time worrying about those who don’t like you. The fun in life is thinking about the people who DO like you – and that you like back.

2.) If it’s not true, then who cares.

If gossip and rumors are circulating… and what people are saying is untrue, then… who cares? Am I right or am I right? If it’s a lie, then why are we giving so much attention to it? Why does it matter? (I know – this is so much harder to live by.) I know that we worry about how affects our overall image. We don’t want those rumors to be out there because it tarnishes our reputation. That is REALLY HARD. But, it’s REALLY REALLY important to ignore it and move on. Otherwise, it will drain you, it will impact you… and your business will suffer on account of this consuming so much of your energy.

3.) You choose how you feel about something.

You can’t control what someone thinks or says about you. You CAN control how you react. You CAN control how you feel. How will you choose to feel about these things? You can choose misery. Or, you can choose to focus on something else. You can DECIDE to NOT let it get to you. That is a choice. No one can MAKE you feel anything that you don’t want to feel. YOU CHOOSE how you feel.

(They have to go to bed at night with an unhealthy conscience, by the way. NOT YOU.)

People…

I know this seems like oversimplified solutions to something that can be very painful. I really don’t want to downplay what you might go through when people are mean in your segment of the market or in your city/town. BUT – I also want you to see beyond it. This is how you start to grow, how you become more confident… how you focus on the bigger and better things.

What do you think? What is your advice for people who have to deal with negative gossip, or mean people?

Using Pinterest Ethically, Legally, and *Coolly*

I’ve been privy to a few conversations lately regarding some ‘less than cool’ Pinterest activity. And by ‘less than cool’ I mean… unethical or illegal or just not cool.

Today… I want to invite you all to share with me YOUR thoughts on ‘less than cool’ Pinterest activity. Please leave a comment below… what is NOT cool to do on Pinterest? (I confess. I had to give up my Pinterest addiction years ago in its early phase. I lost 2 much sleep in a 2 day bender. :) I need you to help me out.)

I’ll share some of my thoughts here…

Swapping links for yours (especially if you are swapping with monetized links) – not cool

This happens when someone pins something andpinterest  inserts a link for reference. (The link is to the original blog post and it gives credit to the creator.) Someone repins the pin and substitutes it with a link going to their site – or, worse – a link that has an affiliate code for some sort of financial gain.

That’s not cool.

This is kinda like stealing.

Borrowing’ images from Pinterest without giving credit to the original source – not cool

Pinterest can be amazing at driving traffic to artists’ sites. The flipside is that when stuff gets pinned, it can easily lose the original source information. 1000 pins down the road and this image has now been downloaded onto someone’s computer and revamped for their own purpose.

Pinterest is not a database of free-to-use creative commons artwork. It is illegal to use images or manipulate images found on Pinterest.

That’s not cool.

Always ask permission. (Here’s a cool post that talks more about this.)

Posting Your Work – that’s OK! Just be cool about it.

When Pinterest first began it was taboo to pin your own work. Now, this is a completely acceptable way to share your work. However, keep in mind… like with all social media, if you only talk about yourself, people will get bored. (“I’m so vain.”) Make sure to attribute your work to your business.

What do you think? Are these not cool? What is also not cool? I know I’m barely tapping the surface here and I’d love to get your thoughts!

Pinterest has a great little etiquette page for more thoughts..

Using Licensed Images, Artwork, and Graphics for Events and Parties

I’m taken aback when I see something is extremely prevalent and totally illegal in our industry (and more so in the kids’ party industry). I’m talking about the use of licensed images and artwork for events and parties. Here’s the deal… if you are profiting from the use of any copyrighted images, artwork, or graphics (that you do not have a right or license to use) you are stealing from that artist. If you are a stationer or an event designer who is using images from films, cartoons, children’s books, television, trademarked logos, etc. you are doing so illegally. (Yes, cake designers too! Keep reading.)

Image: Creative Commons License

HA!  WRONG!  Image: Creative Commons License

I’m talking about using any of the following printed on invitations, menus, banners, bunting, hats, etc, etc, etc…

  • Dr. Seuss characters
  • Charlie Brown and Peanuts Gang characters
  • Star Wars logos
  • Hello Kitty and her friends
  • Logos relating to luxury handbags (Louis Vuitton, etc) and other designer labels
  • Logos relating to colleges and professional sports teams
  • and… anything Disney (of course!)… pretty much anything that has a (c) or ™ or (r) after it!

Don’t even get me started on the craziness on Etsy and Pinterest in regards to completely illegal use of marks and artwork. OY!

What the Law Says…

Copyright and trademark laws are in place to protect artists from those that may want to profit from copying their work. (I’m pretty sure you’d want this protection for your business, right?)

Here is the law so that you can get all legal-y with me:

(1) Any person who shall, without the consent of the registrant—

(a) use in commerce any reproduction, counterfeit, copy, or colorable imitation of a registered mark in connection with the sale, offering for sale, distribution, or advertising of any goods or services on or in connection with which such use is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive; or

(b) reproduce, counterfeit, copy, or colorably imitate a registered mark and apply such reproduction, counterfeit, copy, or colorable imitation to labels, signs, prints, packages, wrappers, receptacles or advertisements intended to be used in commerce upon or in connection with the sale, offering for sale, distribution, or advertising of goods or services on or in connection with which such use is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive, shall be liable in a civil action by the registrant for the remedies hereinafter provided.

What about “non-commercial” or personal use?

Here’s where people get confused and the lines get blurred… if you are hosting a party for your child and use licensed graphics and images… and you are NOT selling anything or profiting from this… you might be OK. The idea is that if you use the image or mark for personal use, you are not gaining any profit. (This does get really blurry tho because some companies do not condone personal use. Your best bet would be to email the artist and/or company and ask for permission.)  The HUGE mistake that is made with the personal use of artwork is when this private party is published on a blog or website. NOW – the party has turned from personal to commercial. Who do you think is profiting? Maybe it’s you indirectly from marketing exposure? Maybe it’s the site owner from the sale of advertisements? Bottom line: if you are using artwork for your personal use, do NOT get it published.

Cake People too!

And, here is something interesting… cake design is guilty of this too! If you are a cake artist who is asked to do Sesame Street characters, you may want to rethink that. This is a really great post explaining the legality of artwork on cake design. The author of this article, Jason Kraft, makes a great point here:

“You may notice many, many examples of infringing cakes posted online by both individuals and businesses. This may be due to people being unaware of copyright law or simply not caring about it, but it does not mean that copyright law is not being enforced. This law exists to protect the investment of people and businesses who spend time and money creating original works of art, and if you create your own original work you would want to enjoy those same protections.”

Be Ethical. Be Honest. Be Legal.

So, what do you do if your client requests this of you? (This is especially hard when your competitor may have this blazoned on their website as something they offer.) One option is to legally license the artwork so that you are free to use it for this event. (Some artists may be more flexible with the use of their images depending on the scope of your work.)

If you are unable to license the artwork (or it is cost prohibitive), then you need to refrain from using it.  The right thing to do is educate the client on why doing this is illegal and unethical. You will gain far more respect and credibility in the industry if you commit yourself to doing honest business.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you been in a situation where a client has asked this of you? Have you had success in licensing artwork the right way?

What to Do When You’re Disrespected

For some reason, this seems to be the year I’m hearing more colleagues than ever telling stories about how they are being disrespected by clients or other wedding pros.  I’m not talking about the occasional upset client email or the wedding pro who is gossiping about you…I’m talking about blatant, intentional disrespect…clients screaming at wedding pros, colleagues making derogatory comments to you or your staff…

So, what’s the appropriate response when you’re disrespected by a client or colleague?  Here’s my strategy for handling situations when I’ve been disrespected:

  • Consider the variables about the situation – did the disrespect occur on the wedding day where there was a ton of pressure, nerves were flying high, etc.?  Or was it just randomly out of the blue?  If it was on a wedding day, I tend to be a bit more understanding since I know there is an extreme amount of pressure and sometimes people just crack under pressure.  If it’s randomly out of the blue, then it’s especially alarming to me and I know that it’s something I need to address asap.
  • Address the situation – if someone is upset and they’re flying off the handle at you, the goal is to help calm them down. Sometimes I’ve learned this isn’t possible if they’re so heated, so you may need to physically walk away to create a barrier between  you and take a breather.  Or, if it’s a nasty email you received, you may need to emotionally walk away from the email for a day or two before you consider your response so that you remove your personal emotions from the communication.  If it makes you feel better, draft an email and keep it in your drafts folder for 24 hours so you can sit on your thoughts and make sure you want to send what you’ve written.
  • Let the person vent – once they have vented all of their frustrations out on you, use the line, “I understand you’re frustrated/disappointed and I regret that you feel this way. Is there anything I can do to fix the situation and make things better?”
  • If they continue – to be upset, swear, degrade you, etc. after trying to calm them down and fix the problem – this is where you MUST set boundaries.  My first job was at Nordstrom and I will never forget the sign that hung above the employee entrance every day I walked into work that read “The Customer is Always Right”.  As much as I truly believe in this statement, when someone draws the line and treats me or my staff with disrespect, that’s where I feel we have to take a stand.  The Customer is NOT always right if they are being disrespectful or degrading.  This is where I would use the line, “I regret that you are upset with me, and I need to let you know that I feel you are disrespecting me because of X.”  If the disrespect, harassment, etc. continues even after you confront the individual then you may need to bring in an attorney who can help to mediate the situation depending on how severe.

Bottom line?  I have zero tolerance for being disrespected, and treating others with respect and dignity is a core value to me and my business.  I expect others I do business with to share my same philosophy and I hold people to high standards.  There is no room in the industry for being treated so poorly, and my hope is that every single wedding professional has the courage to know when to draw the line and stand up for yourself.  You cannot be a doormat and let everyone walk all over you.  So, the next time you’re challenged with a client or colleague who is disrespectful, please consider the above strategy and hold yourself in high regard.  Your confidence, your self-esteem, your business, and your integrity is all at stake if you don’t.  You deserve to be respected!

Kickbacks and Business Ethics

Recently in the Dallas market there was a conversation in our DFW Wedding Industry Facebook Forum about the practice of kickbacks.  There are typically three main types of common kickbacks:

1.  If you receive a referral/booking from a vendor who sent a client your way, you pay them a percentage (often up to 15-20%) of the deal or a flat dollar amount.

2. You’re asked to be on a “Preferred Vendor List” for a Venue, Planner, etc. You can either pay them a flat fee, monthly rate, etc. to be on their list they give clients.

3.  You receive a discount from another wedding pro (ie – Planner receiving discounts on linen rentals) and instead of telling the client about the discount and passing it on to them, you pocket the discount.

This topic stirred up quite the conversation as there are many Venues and Planners in town who are just calling up companies they don’t even know to ask them for a kickback to see if they want to be on the Venue or Planner’s “preferred list”.  Just last month while Michelle and I were in LA for The Simple Plan workshop, this question came up again about kickbacks and the ethics related to this practice.  So here is where I (and the majority of successful business owners I know) stand on the topic:

  • A strong, healthy business model is built on solid relationships you develop with other professionals because of the way you treat them, their clients, and the value you provide them – NOT from kickbacks.
  • Just randomly asking people you don’t even know if they’re willing to give you a kickback so you can put them on your “preferred vendor list” is just bad practice, plain and simple.  It leaves a bad taste in the person’s mouth that you hit up.
  • When a business offers a kickback, often times they are charging the client much less than market value because they are “making up” for the difference by earning kickback income from the vendors on their “preferred list”.  This is terrible because that business is devaluing the industry and their profession, low-balling everyone else. That business also starts to be known as the “cheap” or “budget” option in town.  Not good.
  • It’s an old school practice and times have changed.  If you’re trying to get kickbacks, you may be cutting off the hand that feeds you.  People talk and once they know you’re in the “kickback” category they may automatically write you off from ever wanting to do business with you.
  • It’s a major disservice to your clients.  By not disclosing that you receive kickbacks, you’re not being truthful to your clients.  The wedding industry is based on a HUGE amount of trust that our clients must have with us as wedding pros.  Holding back this information from them is in my opinion, a dishonest way to treat them and run a business.
  • Most solid business/networking associations in the wedding industry have policies where their members are not allowed to accept kickbacks (or at least if they do, they must disclose the practice and amount to their clients).
  • Instead of kickbacks, send the wedding pro who referred a client to you a small gift card, a bouquet of flowers, etc.  Or even just a thoughtful note in the mail thanking them.  It’s often the small gestures that go a long way these days.

Bottom line, if it feels wrong in the slightest or it’s a gray issue to you – it probably is wrong.

What are your thoughts on this controversial topic?